For more than two decades the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) have had a concordat agreement in place to support UK-led biomedical and public health research tackling the priority health problems of poor people in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).
The concordat supports a jointly funded portfolio of global health research and capacity strengthening activities intended to provide high-quality evidence and leadership that aim to have positive impact on the health of those most at need in LMICs. A theory of change and the underpinning assumptions (PDF, 329KB) is available on our website.
The concordat has been arranged under successive five-year periods. The concordat portfolio 2013-18 provided £90 million support (£41 million DFID, £49 million MRC) to over 100 research activities. Partnership through the concordat provides DFID an opportunity to support a strong portfolio of diverse, internationally competitive research of different scale across a spectrum of diseases and health conditions. For MRC it influences the breadth, nature and volume of global health research and capacity strengthening undertaken in the poorest countries.
The scope of the global health research portfolio aligns with mutually agreed opportunities and areas for particular encouragement and has tended to shift towards more applied and implementation focused research. Furthermore, the concordat provides an exemplar, twin UK public funding contribution, to the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership EDCTP.
The strong core relationship developed through the concordat has underpinned the emergence of fully fledged, expanded multi-partner schemes on specific topics including the Joint Global Health Trials scheme (JGHT) and the Joint Health Systems Research Initiative (HSRI) which are financed separately and additionally to the concordat.
Independent review of MRC-DFID concordat 2013-2018
An independent review of the previous concordat was conducted in the first half of 2018. The review incorporated five main components: desk research, including a rapid evidence assessment, review of concordat documentation, and analysis of Researchfish data; interviews with a range of stakeholders; field visits to several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa; impact case studies; and synthesis and reporting.
Selected highlights from the review include:
- The concordat supports a portfolio of high-quality relevant global health research and research capacity building activities, delivering many high-quality outcomes with a strong potential for impact.
- A number of thematic gaps were identified including non-communicable disease areas, systems and implementation research.
- Capacity building was a strong outcome of the portfolio but there remained further scope to increase embedded capacity strengthening and more should be done to capture the nature and breadth of activities.
- There was scope to offer better guidance and examples of good practice in terms of promoting uptake of research findings by policy makers and practitioners.
See the executive summary (PDF, 401KB), full report (PDF, 2.77MB) and case studies (PDF, 819KB). The findings of this review have been used in the shaping of the current concordat and in developing future activities.
Current concordat 2018-2023
The most recent concordat 2018-2023 agreement pledges at least £50 million to invest in areas of research where MRC and DFID have shared strategic interests. The funding to this activity reflects the changed landscape for global health research and the multiple ODA funding streams for global health research, including the Global Challenges Research Fund, Newton Fund, and Ross Fund, to which BEIS, DFID, DH and other government departments report.
The scope of the current concordat encompasses a breadth of research themes, including priority areas:
- prevention and control of infections (HIV, TB, malaria, emerging infections and neglected tropical diseases)
- maternal and neonatal health
- non-communicable diseases and multi-morbidities
- health of disadvantaged groups over the life course including adolescents
- translational, public health and implementation research.
To enable flexibility to utilise funds as areas of interest or opportunity emerges, the scope remains reasonably broad but does for the first time include non-communicable diseases.
The concordat is expected to support global health research projects funded through MRC research boards including the two units in Africa:
- MRC Unit, The Gambia at LSHTM
- MRC/UVRI and LSHTM Research Unit Uganda.
Whose broadened remit now include both systems and non-communicable disease research, and where both have a strong capacity strengthening mandate.
The concordat will also provide support for new projects in key partnered schemes:
MRC/DFID African Research Leadership Scheme
A strong feature of concordat support is a contribution to research capacity strengthening in LMICs. To date 18 African Research Leaders in Ghana, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and Zimbabwe have been supported. A further call for ARLs 2019 has been launched.
Research to improve adolescent health in LMIC settings
The 2018 call for proposals, in partnership with NIHR and ESRC seeks to provide the research evidence needed to effect real and practical changes to improve adolescent health in LMICs. Awards will be announced in mid-2019.